Sunday, March 15, 2015


Okay. I blame this on the fact that I stayed up last night until 1 a.m. working on a murder mystery plot. Seriously.
Today we were supposed to take a neighbor - a lady I'll call Y.. - to church. We've known each other for several years: she's funny, loves to work in her yard, and has a past which is really not... completely past. Earlier in the week I was talking to her about our church and she just asked me (out of the blue) when the service started and told me she really wanted to go.
She said her husband was having to work out of town this past week and although he would come home for the weekend, she just felt like she needed something to do and she'd been thinking about going back to church for a while. (She was raised in church as a kid but that was some decades ago).
I told her I would love to have her go with us. Before we quit visiting, she asked me to come over on Sunday and beat on her bedroom wall at 9 a.m. to make sure she was up and I told her that was no problem.
Last night I asked Phil to go with me to Y's house this morning because they have 3 forty pound dogs and I'm afraid of them. And Y's husband is really bad about leaving the doors unlatched (the dogs can push the front door open) and/or letting them out when people come to call. (Her husband is bi-polar - he's really nice when he's on his meds and not doing pot... However, when he's not on his meds he's a bit anti-social...)
So this morning Phil and I walk over to Y'.s house (me armed with a walking cane for whacking dogs with) and Phil knocks on her window. She doesn't respond so I start yelling her name and reminding her that we're going to church together. WE hear movement and then she comes to the door, obviously trying to wake up (I know how she feels...) She told us she didn't realize it was Sunday and asks what time she needs to be ready. We tell her that we'll be leaving in about an hour and she says that's fine, she'll be ready.
And she was. PHil and I usually travel in separate cars on Sunday morning so that he can serve at a local outreach center. So I pick Y. up - she's looking very nice, dressed appropriately (better than me actually). Her make up and hair look nice and her clothes are color coordinated. She's actually very artistic and I could learn a few things from her in that area, definitely. At any rate, she seems happy and immediately starts talking.
" My husband got home Friday night and he has to leave out again this afternoon for another week b/c they still have to finish up that welding job up in the Northern part of the state. So he asked me yesterday if I could turn him in for his outstanding warrant and when I asked him why, he said he didn't want to go back up North for a week to work, he likes the hotel room okay but he can't stand sharing a room with anybody else. So I told him the warrant he has right now would only get him a fine and wouldn't get him jail time so he needs to just plan on going back to work - he's only got a couple more weeks to go up there. But I may need to call his boss and see if they'll give him a hotel room by himself... If I can't borrow M.'s phone, could I borrow yours after church? My husband got me a phone but he hasn't put any minutes on it yet so it's not much good but at least I've got one..."
Hi Ho, Hi Ho... it's off to church we go...
During the service we're sitting there reading the Bible together, singing together (she has a beautiful voice), and hearing the Word preached. Phil and I both are praying silently like crazy for her, so thankful she's finally sitting in church with us after all these years. I hear her sniffling some during the music and feel sure God is working on her heart. And during one prayer we hold hands with each other - I'm thinking how awesome this is.
At the end of the service the youth leader gets up and announces some upcoming activities which include a paint ball event next Saturday for the teens and whoever else wants to come.
As we're leaving the church, I'm hoping she'll ask the pastor if she can talk to him about her spiritual life, etc. Really, I'm hoping she'll bust out with words like, "Could you tell me how to be saved??" NO ONE who goes to church with us from the 'Hood EVER says that. (Just once, Oh Lord, just once!!!)
Instead she tells him that next Saturday sounds great. I'm totally confused.
As we're walking out to the car, she elaborates. She tells me that she turns 50 on Sunday and that her 17th anniversary is next weekend as well and that the paintball thing on Saturday would be a great way to celebrate their wedding anniversary... if she can talk her husband into it.
I look at her and realize she is serious.
On the way home she talks about how she really needs to call her husband's boss and how she's pretty sure she can use M.'s phone. She thanks me for offering her lunch -Phil and I had hoped Y. and I could talk about  things over a quiet meal. However, she has left a pot roast in the oven and needs to get home. Then she tells me how nice it is to have a stove after several years of not having one. She explains that her friend, M., saw this stove sitting out behind a restaurant - obviously about to be discarded - and asked her if she wanted it and she said, "Sure" so they went and got it and it works great.
Then she switches from that to telling me about how one of her husband's friends has a criminal past - well, they all have criminal pasts - but this one gives her the collywoggles. And one day last summer, back when their electricity was turned off for several months, she was taking a long afternoon nap (because what else can you do when it's hot and the middle of the day and you don't have AC?) and she suddenly woke up to find this guy standing over her and she didn't know how he got in her house because altho she doesn't lock her door during the day, she has those three huge dogs who always alert whenever somebody comes onto their property. But they didn't alert this time and she doesn't know if the guy was wearing a pork chop around his neck or what - but he sure got past them that day. So if we see a certain vehicle in her drive while her husband is out of town, we should feel free to come over and beat on her door and check on her because this guy really makes her feel nervous because he's a serious offender, not like their other friends, most of which are just crazy.
All the while she's telling me this, I'm praying for an opening to ask her about spiritual things, etc. Finally, just before we get to her house, I interrupt the free flow of her conversation and mange to squeeze in a couple of sentences. I thank her for going to church with us, and tell her I hope she'll go back with us again next Sunday.
She told me she enjoyed the service, it was nice and relaxing and she didn't know why she cried during the music but she usually does. Anyway, she didn't know if she could go back next Sunday because it's her birthday and she might tie one on the night before but she really enjoyed getting to go today.
Antiquated would-be
worker in the  'hood....

Friday, March 13, 2015

Why Joy Doesn't Come...

I'm going to make a plug once again for Kelly Minter's study, What Love Is...
One reason I'm mentioning it again is because much of what I'm going to share came from video session 7 in that study and I want you to know where I got this spiritual insight - it didn't come from me.
I listened to the video last night and woke up thinking about it this morning. Kelly is a good story teller but the truths she reveals in those stories are profound, no matter how simple the story may sound on the surface.
In this session she talked about how she had been a practicing Christian - in Christ, Christ in her, into the Word, etc. - and yet...
And yet one day when she was jogging, she asked the Lord why there was no joy in her life and to her shock, this thought passed through her mind: because you have idols in your heart.
She immediately wanted to dismiss that thought but then God showed her that an idol is anything that dominates our thoughts and/or is something we feel we have to have in order to be happy. It is something that, when it doesn't go the way we want it to, we feel despondent or upset.
Well, I know that... Don't I?
But really, does that mean that carrying a grudge can be an idol? Or clinging to a relationship when it's not healthy - can that be an idol?
I began to think about it - what things occupy my thoughts? What things do I feel I have to have in order to be happy? What things cause a visceral gut reaction when I first realize that this or that may be suddenly taking a turn that I don't like and didn't expect?
Then Kelly goes on to talk about Mary of Bethany. And she brought out a progression in Mary's relationship with Jesus that I'd never seen before.
First Mary sat and listened to Jesus. We know that story probably - Martha is running around, busy, distracted, and frustrated. WHile Mary is sitting at the teacher's feet,listening, absorbing, learning. Why? Because she doesn't like to wash dishes or cook? (Um... that would be me, actually...)
No. Because, as Jesus explains to Martha, what Mary is absorbing will never be taken from her. Ever. Not by old age, Alzheimer, or even death. And somehow Mary "got that". So she opted for something that was not an idol, something that couldn't disappoint her.
But then we see her beside the body of her dead brother. Jesus has a plan but she doesn't know that. And she is deeply grieving. And deeply disappointed. Really rocked to the core of her being.
And then Martha comes to her and says what Kelly said may be the most beautiful words in Scripture: "The teacher is here and he's calling for you."
And inspite of her deep disappointment, Mary gets up and goes to Jesus. Only this time she doesn't sit at his feet,smiling, and learning. No. She throws herself at his feet and blurts out her anguish, "Lord, if You had been here then _______________ wouldn't have happened." Scripture doesn't leave a blank there - Mary is specific: if You had been here, my brother wouldn't have died. But I put a blank there because, as Kelly says, we probably all have that cry in our hearts somewhere,harking back to a recent event or even maybe to a long ago event where we just got stuck. Our spiritual heart got mired in the quicksand of, "Lord, if you had been here... " then... my marriage wouldn't have turned to dust, my finances wouldn't have failed, this venture wouldn't have folded before it's time, my kid wouldn't have done this or that, my loved one wouldn't have died, my health wouldn't have gone South, etc.
So, even though all Mary could see was apparent failure as well as  a wall of grief that she could not get around and which couldn't possibly lead to anything good, she still went to the Master, fell at His feet and poured out her grief. "IF only You had been here, then....
Finally, we see her one more time - this time kneeling at the feet of Jesus, breaking a bottle of priceless perfume/oil and pouring out this expensive liquid over Jesus' feet. Spikenard was used to prepare a body for burial and that is what Mary is doing. Once again, she gets it. What Jesus teaches and what He gives, the way He loves and guides - all of that is lasting. It won't be taken away from her.
And she understands. HE is the resurrection and the life. She knows it. She's seen it..
Hence she is thrilled to give everything she has to Him in an extravagant act of love. Because she knows Him and she knows what He is worth.
Sitting at His feet, learning. Throwing ourselves at His feet, when life takes a turn we didn't expect or want. Pouring out our treasure at His feet in joyful surrender.
And no room for false idols along the way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's All Good...

Late last night when the house was quiet, I was reading Scripture and praying, basically asking God why I struggle so at times. I haven't had a stellar track record spiritually this past week. Attitudes have not been wonderful, etc.
And I felt like He gave me an epiphany, sort of. (I mean, how much of an epiphany can you have in a Jim Walter home in the 'hood at 1 a.m. in the morning??)
But I felt He asked me what my goal in life was. And then answered that question for me in a moment of time. To my surprise, I actually had a goal which I was feverishly trying to accomplish.
IF you had asked me,I would have told you that I didn't. That I was content with growing older and certain that Heaven would be everything it's cracked up to be and more.
But last night in a few minutes, a curtain was pulled back, basically, and I realized that in the back of my mind I had an image of myself becoming super Christian, reaching the epitome of my spiritual development (while people oohed and ahhed around me) and then - then once I'd reached that pinnacle of achievement - then I could transition to Heaven... And not until then...
The problem is that Older Super Christian Woman looks like this:
She's skinny. I'm not. No, wait! She's svelte... (That's even worse if I'm still in the running...)
She's smart as in she's memorized the Bible (at least the New Testament) and has all the answers. I have a lot of questions and often can't remember my own name. Or my kid's name. Or our dog's name... (So sometimes I just go down the list of names in my memory bank until I hit the right one). HOWEVER I am memorizing Scripture. I memorized John 13:1 last week. And I memorized it again this week...
She's beautiful. (Aren't all successful women, Christian or otherwise beautiful?)
I'm aging but not like a fine wine, shall we say. (Lack of hormones can do a lot of things to your body, I'm finding out...)
She's leading national Bible studies. Don't get me wrong - I love video-driven Bible studies and hope to do many more. But about all I myself can do is lead a small group discussion after listening to a video... And I don't always do that well. As in I can't always see what page number the current question is on. Or I read the question with no problem but halfway through I think, "Oh gosh! I never answered that one! And I see why!! It doesn't make a lick of sense to me even now..."
The perfect Christian woman has a saintly expression on her perfectly made up face, regardless of the trials that come her way. I don't take a ton of selfies. And there is a reason for that. Let's just say when the dog has another "on purpose" on the kitchen floor and I've just realized that our gas bill has doubled which means I'll have to do battle with a phone maze and the neighborhood kids are once again coming over here with muddy feet and all I really want to do is take a nap - well, the expression on my face isn't, um, saintly. Hence not a lot of selfies...
Back to the triumphant older Christian woman - her kids really do rise up and call her blessed. Mine loves me but, um, he's not a morning person so he doesn't really speak to me when he gets up and I don't really want him to call me blessed... Just making up his bed would be fine with me...
This perfect woman lives overseas but cares for a whole tribe of adopted kids over here. Without breaking a sweat. And she writes several books about all of it ... with no help from anyone else.. And at least one is a best seller. And her kids (all grown up now) have graduated from Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Moody Bible Institute, and Cambridge and are on the mission field doing pioneer work in a tribe we've never heard of before.
And I'm supposed to be approaching the apex of that spiritual line of development?? Here on earth? Before I can transition to Heaven and expect to receive a "Welcome Home, Thou Good and Faithful Servant"???
THAT's been my subconscious goal??
As I'm digesting that startling thought, God impressed another thought on my mind, equally startling.
I promise.
It was this:
Of the two of us, only one of us expected you to do and be all that...
smile emoticon